Onni accuses councillor of conflict over Lonsdale development vote
A North Vancouver city councillor, whose accusations of 'bullying' against real estate developer Onni resulted in the company's withdrawal from a controversial Central Lonsdale development this week, actually works for an Onni subcontractor on a similar development, The Outlook has learned.
Coun. Rod Clark has been working for a concrete contractor on an Onni site since May, building a three-tower mixed-use development strikingly similar to the one Onni recently failed to gain the favour of some North Van city councillors — including Clark — to build.
Onni says it's investigating whether Clark was in a conflict of interest and should have recused himself from the vote. Clark says he's checked with his own lawyer who's assured him he's clear of any wrongdoing.
At very least, it's the latest development in a story that has had many bitter twists and turns as the relationship between Onni and North Vancouver city hall soured after two years of talks on redeveloping the former Safeway site at Lonsdale Avenue and 13th Street. That relationship finally fell apart this week when a frustrated Onni walked away from its 1300-block Lonsdale Avenue proposal, blaming remarks made by Clark and others on council.
"There's no conflict of interest," Clark told The Outlook on the phone from the Richmond construction site Thursday afternoon. "I work for a sub-trade that happens to be working on an Onni site."
But Onni's VP of development Beau Jarvis, who only found out about Clark's employment as an Onni subcontractor on Thursday, told The Outlook, "it's at very least something that should have been disclosed to the public and to Onni before the vote."
On Thursday, Jarvis wrote to North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto alerting his office to Clark's employment as an Onni subcontractor, saying, "In our view, proper protocol and ethics clearly called for Councillor Clark to, at the very least, publicly declare his conflict. There is plenty of precedent where councillors in similar circumstances have taken the additional step of removing themselves from both the debate and vote."
Mayor Mussatto said he received the letter Thursday and immediately forwarded it on to city staff.
"Conflict of interest is called by the individual, it's not called by anybody else," Mussatto told The Outlook Thursday. "We do have an account here at the City of North Vancouver for members of council and they're strongly encouraged to get a legal opinion. It's called a conflict-of-interest account at $5,000 and they can go get an opinion on it and the city pays for that opinion."
Clark said he would "reserve comment" when asked if he harboured any ill will towards Onni from his employment on-site with Whitewater Concrete.
"If I was in support of their project, people would say, 'Oh, he's in their pocket.' But I have been against their project for very good and valid reasons on behalf of the community who I'm listening to," Clark said.
"I'm not in support of the Onni project as it came forward but I may be in support of an Onni project down the road," he added.
The provincial inspector of municipalities office had not responded to The Outlook's request for comment by press time Thursday.